New Ofcom rules will require ISPs to provide prospective customers with personalised speed estimates specific to their premises, rather than guesses derived from properties with similar characteristics.
Although the previous system of estimation worked well for copper-based products, where speeds are influenced by things like distance from the exchange or cabinet, other variables are present in modern FTTP systems, including the type of cabling used, and the capacity of the line connected to the premises.
The new rules reinforce Ofcom's broadband speeds code of practice, which was introduced in March 2019. Under this regime, providers are obliged to offer interested customers a minimum guaranteed speed, which extends to peak times. For residential users, these are between 8pm and 10pm, while for business users it's between 12pm and 2pm.
If actual speeds drop below what was promised, customers can leave their contract without facing any penalties. This extends to other "bundled" components including landline phone services or pay TV subscriptions purchased at the same time.
The aforementioned code of practice is wholly voluntary, and providers can choose whether they wish to sign up. Most of the big names across business and residential broadband – BT, PlusNet, TalkTalk, and Virgin Media to name just a few – are signatories, although there are some notable exceptions, including Vodafone and Sky Broadband.
Moreover, not all providers have implemented the rules, with Ofcom citing "honest" Yorkshire outfit Plusnet as an example. The telecommunications watchdog said it's in talks with PlusNet and is "urging them to implement it as quickly as possible."
We contacted PlusNet with a friendly "ey up" to ask when they expect to do their customers proud and meet obligations under the code. If we hear back, we'll update this story. ®